The new mideast crisis over Qatar

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The Middle East is embroiled in a new crisis, and it has nothing to do with Israel.  Nine Arab nations have cut off all diplomatic and economic ties with the oil-rich emirate of Qatar and are expelling Qatari citizens.

Bahrain has made it a crime, punishable by 5 years in prison and a fine,  for any of its citizens to “express sympathy” for Qatar.  The United Arab Emirates will put you in prison for 15 years for expressing sympathy for Qatar, “whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form.”

Why?  Qatar has been supporting Islamic extremists under the table for years, some of which threaten the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and these other monarchies and emirates.

But the catalyst was a report quoting the Qatari Emir expressing support for Iran and criticizing Donald Trump’s policy towards Iran.  Qatar is supposed to be Sunni Muslim, as are these other Arab countries.  Iran is Shi’ite.   Those two Islamic sects are bitter enemies, sort of like Catholics and Protestants during the 30 Years War.  That a Sunni state would support Iran feels like both heresy and betrayal.

Qatar claims that the Emir said no such thing, that the quote was “fake news” connected to a hack by Russian intelligence. U. S. Intelligence says that this could very well be the case.

At any rate, the uproar over Qatar has turned into a new crisis in the Middle East.

[Read more…]

Putting Iran “on notice”

613px-Army_of_the_Guardians_of_the_Islamic_Revolution_troop_marching_with_gun_and_headbandPresident Trump has put Iran “on notice” for its recent ballistic missile tests, which were forbidden by its accord with the previous administration.  An article in the Washington Post shows how Iran has grown into a major military power, forming alliances throughout the Middle East and becoming one of the few nations capable of projecting military force beyond its borders.

The analysis shows–without, of course, saying so–just how weak President Obama’s policies towards Iran were, enabling its economic and military revival so that it’s now a major threat in the Middle East.  Trump has re-imposed some sanctions and sent the destroyer U.S.S Cole to waters where Iran has been throwing its weight around.  It’s not clear what else he has in mind, should Iran continue its aggressive stance.

The Sunni Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, are delighted with Trump’s tough talk on Iran.  According to the article, the prospect of the United States standing up against their Shi’ite rival more than makes up for Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.

But the president will have to deal with a couple of complicating factors:  The Shi’ite Iranians, with their proxy militias, are fighting the Sunni ISIS, arguably a much greater enemy of the United States.  And Iran is closely allied with Russia.  If Trump wants to improve relations with Vladimir Putin, that would conflict with his desire to get tough with Iran.

Read the article, excerpted and linked after the jump. [Read more…]

The end of the state in the Middle East

Lehigh professor Henry J. Barkey points out that the institution of the nation-state is virtually unraveling in the Middle East, with central governments being unable to enforce their laws within its borders, being replaced with local warlords, factional militias, and cross-border organizations such as ISIS. [Read more…]

Obama wants Israel to go back to 1967 borders

President Obama’s peace plan for the Middle East calls for Israel to go back to its borders before the 1967 war.  In that war, the Arab states attacked Israel from all sides but were route.  Israel seized the rest of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and other regions–originally all the way to the border with Egypt, though much of that land has been given back.  But Israel has retained a buffer for its own security.

So are the Arab states less hostile to Israel now than they were in 1967?

 

Netanyahu, Obama and 1967 borders: Reactions to the speech – BlogPost – The Washington Post.